“I wrote an article on post-traumatic growth and how in the middle of a crisis, we don’t need to teach the skills to be resilient. You don’t tell a drowning victim how to do the backstroke. You save the drowning victim and then you give them swimming lessons.”
– Vak Jencks

What a time to be alive, huh? I say so with tongue firmly planted in my cheek because when crisis cycles like the one we’re currently in arise, instinct often overrides my ability to analyze. I rush for the deep end with an overwhelming need to do everything, even as I realize I’ve stretched myself too thin to do anything.

Raise your hand if you’ve been there; done that. Val Jencks, MS, LMFT, LCPC, gets it. In addition to spending nearly three decades mentoring new therapists and working with couples and families at her Chicago-based group practice, this self-described “serial volunteer” has also dedicated her life to advocating for people impacted by trauma, mental illness, and addiction. Oh, and btw, she’s a stand-up legend who co-founded Laughing Matters In Chicago, a nonprofit that produces comedy events supporting young performers in recovery. But wait, there’s more. Val’s 2015 TEDx Talk “How to Rewrite History” is a message for anyone who has witnessed or survived youth abuse.

You’d be forgiven for thinking, “Damn! This lady has it all together!” I mean, you’re not wrong. But the beauty of Val’s wisdom isn’t in how she keeps all the balls in the air. Instead, those times when she’s let the balls fall (because yeah, life) provide the most insight. Multiple crises have taught Val the importance of establishing a new orbit, mindful that her wellbeing (not to mention that of her family, colleagues, and clients) hangs in the balance.

However, taking care of oneself is easier said than done, especially for entrepreneurs in the healing space. When crisis crashes into capitalism, a flood of self-serving propaganda follows, pressuring individuals to practice resilience amid the storm. That, says Val, isn’t the time to teach a drowning victim how to do the backstroke. “When you have resilience when you go through difficult times, you know you will get through it, and there will be an end to it, and you’re going to survive. [ ] But when you’re going through it, there’s shame.” And an immediate need for safety. Only after you’ve made it to shore can you recognize the breadth of your resilience––and sign up for those swim lessons.

Post-traumatic growth doesn’t come quickly; it reveals itself by inches or less. “It has had an impact on me that I didn’t anticipate,” says Val, recalling myriad challenges that have come her way in the last few years. “I just am much more comfortable with myself. I’m less judgmental of myself.”  And less compelled to dive in head-first without checking her own vitals.

Special Note: For those interested in providing tangible support to LGBTQIA+ communities under threat in Texas and Florida, the following is a small list of vetted resources:

Resources for Texas Trans Kids

www.txtranskids.org

www.transtexas.org/resources

www.transequality.org/additional-help

www.transhealthconsulting.com/mentalhealth

Resources to Oppose Florida Don’t Say Gay Bill

Take Action via Equality Florida – http://eqfl.org/act

Florida Coalition for Trans Liberation – www.fc4tl.org

Safe School South Florida – http://safeschoolssouthflorida.org

SAVE LGBTQ – www.save.lgbt

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MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE

Harsh Reality

Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness

What A Day

How To Rewrite History

NARM – NeuroAffective Relational Model

The Happiness Exercises

Pursuit of Happiness

GUEST CONTACT INFO & BIO

Valerie Jencks

Prairie Family Therapy

Laughing Matters In Chicago

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Val Jencks, MS, LMFT, LCPC, has spent nearly three decades working with couples and families in her Chicago practice, Prairie Family Therapy. Often described as a “serial volunteer,” she has a strong penchant for championing the underserved, with decades of advocacy for people impacted by trauma, mental illness and addiction. She also co-founded “Laughing Matters in Chicago,” a nonprofit dedicated to producing comedy events that support young performers in recovery. Her 2015 TEDx talk “How to Rewrite History” is a message for anyone who has witnessed or survived youth abuse.


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